Comment

Begging and bombast don’t go together


THERE is

something schizophrenic about our foreign policy. Pre-sident Mugabe denounces Western countries with venom yet ministers go cap in hand to Washington and beg UN agencies to help Zimbabwe out of the mess Zanu PF policies have spawned. Presumably Mugabe knows about Herbert Murerwa’s supplications at the IMF and letters written to the UNDP asking them to find $880 billion to finance the disastrous agricultural “reform” programme?


Needless to say, nothing will be forthcoming, even when the application is dressed up as a plea for humanitarian assistance. The cabinet has yet to understand that donors will sit on their hands until government adopts workable solutions to the myriad problems the country faces.


The IMF last week set it out clearly enough. Zimbabwe’s economic crisis reflected to a large extent “inappropriate economic policies”. Increased regulations and government intervention had “driven economic activity underground and contributed to the chronic shortages of goods and foreign exchange”.


The impact of these policies had been exacerbated by the fast-track land reform programme and the HIV/Aids pandemic, as well as drought, it said.


Meanwhile, investor confidence has been eroded by weak governance and corruption. This included problems surrounding indigenisation in the business sector and the selective enforcement of regulations.


In other words Zimbabwe does not provide a climate conducive to investment. Nor are donors going to open their pocket books when multilateral aid is rendered pointless by policies that sabotage recovery and growth.


The vast sums the government is now begging for from the UNDP will prove illusory. UNDP representative in Harare Victor Angelo was suitably diplomatic. “Donors would be very supportive of a well-designed and properly implemented survey of the agricultural situation,” he said in a recent interview.


“Before this has been achieved we can’t even talk about the next step.”


Zimbabweans themselves must take the lead in laying the groundwork, he pointed out. Angelo spoke of the need for better planning, more transparency, more resources and full implementation of the law.


“The critical issues — sustainable resettlement, food security, institutional strengthening, and renewed partnerships — have to be faced head on,” he said.


Nothing like that is happening now. Instead there will be more coercive legislation undermining judicial adjudication, more random resettlement according to political needs, and continued destruction of resources such as woodland and wildlife which in many parts of the country has been reduced by 70%.


An independent land audit — ie not one run by Zanu PF which is an interested party — is now at the top of most people’s agenda, both locally and internationally. Until the ghastly mess surrounding land is cleaned up and the political pillagers evicted, there will be no donor support for a comprehensive land programme.


At the same time, multilateral lenders have made it clear they will not release funds to Zimbabwe until the economy is placed on a sound footing. That, as Murerwa knows perfectly well, is beyond the means of the current crop of ministers who are accountable not to the public but to a president and politburo locked in the mantras of a command economy. As he will have been told in Washington, only a national consensus on economic policy based on sound principles will see a fresh flow of funds.


But is Murerwa explaining these realities to his colleagues? It is difficult to understand what he was doing in Washington when he clearly understands the problem. This was a pointless mission if ever there was one. President Mugabe has made his position on the Bretton Woods institutions plain enough. Why is he now surreptitiously dispatching ministers to seek their assistance when he has told the bankers to go to hell?


Quite obviously Mugabe is playing to the gallery of nationalist opinion while privately acknowledging the need for international support. The same applies to his land policy.


Once again we are seeing a president trying to wriggle free from the consequences of his damaging rhetoric. But Murerwa should not have wasted taxpayers’ money on a futile mission. There will be no money forthcoming from any external source until the root of the problem is tackled and that is governance.


Zanu PF is hoping that by being seen to engage in dialogue with the MDC, doors will open to them. But it’s not as simple as that. The whole point of dialogue is to stabilise the economy. And that can only be achieved by a political settlement, one that sees a restoration of the rule of law, disbandment of militias, the repeal of repressive legislation and a level electoral landscape.


Those basics need to be spelt out to any ruling-party politician who hopes that the semblance of negotiations is suddenly going to provide an avalanche of donor support. It’s not going to happen.


So long as the politics of intimidation and violence persist, as we have seen recently in Bindura, Chegutu, Marondera and Rusape, Zanu PF will have to live with the international consequences of its misrule.


Its harassment of the opposition, misuse of the police and abuse of public funds represent one large billboard advertising its inability to win elections by fair or democratic means.


Meanwhile, Mugabe could at least have the courage of his convictions and stop authorising ministerial begging from international institutions when he feels so strongly that they have no solution to the country’s crisis.


The question is: What solution does he have? Waving his fists around and cursing his critics is hardly a substitute for policy.

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